I only know Chuck via email. But through our dozen or so exchanges, I feel like I have gotten to know him well. We don’t just discuss myeloma related stuff–I’m not sure if he realized how difficult and out-of-the-ordinary his case is–but family, too. I reminded him of that after I ran the first installment of his series. Here’s what Chuck had to say:
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the amazing support I’ve received from family and friends. First, there’s my primary caregiver and wife, Belle. Belle is an occupational therapist, and she has a skill set that is helpful when dealing with a sick spouse. Belle forces me to act responsibly when I’d rather be in denial. Somehow, she simultaneously works full-time, studies for her doctorate, and keeps our household functioning. Belle hasn’t wavered as my loving partner, even though I’m not the easiest person to be around.
Next, my brother, Mike, moved from Arkansas to Atlanta to help out, and with two young kids at home, his assistance has been priceless. I have four children: Jake is 26, Joseph is 23, Samuel is 13, and Andrew is 10. I couldn’t ask for better kids, and they provide the motivation for me to fight the good fight. Jake and Joseph are both launched in their careers, so I know they’ll do fine regardless of what happens to me. And I think Samuel has the emotional muscle to handle future adversity as well. It’s Andrew that I worry about most. He’s still a little boy, and I want to be around until he reaches puberty at the very least.
Not only has my family been supportive, but Belle’s family has been as well. Her brothers, John, Joe, and Jimmy, call regularly to see how I’m doing. Her Uncle Bill died of Multiple Myeloma a few years back, and her Aunt Bebe and their children donated to MM charities during Christmas on behalf of me and Bill. I was choking back tears when they told me.
Finally, our friends have been great too. My former co-workers, Barry and Linda, as well as others, sent food. Barry spent a day with me at the hospital with me during one of my rougher patches, and he chats with me daily online. Don, who recently lost his wife to ovarian cancer, gathered printed information for me from the American Cancer Society regarding multiple myeloma. Our neighbors, Lee and Lisa, stepped in and helped whenever we needed it. Sara and Kate have been supportive as well. There are too many others to name everyone. The thing I appreciate most is that none of our friends backed off when I was diagnosed with cancer, though I wouldn’t have blamed them. Cancer can be a scary reminder of our shared mortality, and not everyone wants to be reminded. Mostly, folks still relate to me as regular old Chuck, and that’s just the way I like it.
Belle’s uncle had multiple myeloma, too? Considering those with multiple myeloma make up less than 1% of cancer patients diagnosed each year, that’s a startling coincidence.
Cancer, schmancer! Chuck is one lucky guy, don’t you think? And I/we are better for getting to know him!
Hey Chuck! Georgia isn’t that far away; maybe you can make it down for our myeloma get-together in February. No, I haven’t forgotten. I will have a date for you soon. I’m looking into a location right near the airport. Those of you flying won’t even need to rent a car.
Until then, Feel good and keep smiling!